Add lights, sound, motion, and sensors to toys, e-wearables, and creatures you create!
|March 2-30, 2022
|Wednesdays at 1pm ET /
12pm CT / 11am MT/
What if you could add lights, sound, motion, and sensors to electronic wearables, toys, or creatures you created? In this class, you’ll get to make programmable projects that are fun, useful, or just for show!
This class is for students who have completed BOTS 1 (Build BOTS) or Intro to MakeCode. If you have not taken either of these classes, you must contact the instructor for permission to take this class.
We’ll explore new ways to work with the Adafruit Circuit Playground Express using free, online, block-based Microsoft MakeCode software. As you design and build your projects, you’ll learn to document your work like scientists and engineers do. At the end, you’ll get to showcase your favorite projects. Will you put on a talent show, hold a parade, create an art exhibition? You (and the class) decide!
Classes last about 90 minutes, including time for building. Written materials will help you follow along and keep working on your project between classes if you choose.
A note on supplies: In addition to the electronics you already have from BOTS 1/Build BOTS, you may want to add some additional servo motors and lights — see Supplies for more details.
Classes take place on Wednesdays from March 2-30, 2022 at 1pm Eastern / noon Central / 11am Mountain / 10am Pacific
Each class lasts around 90 minutes.
Students are encouraged to work on their projects outside class time.
What to Expect
Each week, we’ll go over new coding concepts and look at different ways to use microcontrollers. Then students will have time to design, build, and code their own version of the featured project, depending on their interest and available materials. Possible projects this semester include:
- Make a Helpful Wearable Device, such as a fitness monitor or turn indicator for a bike helmet
- Make an Electronic Game Board with lights and sound
- Make a Musical Device, such as a cardboard saxophone or piano shirt
- Make an A.I. (Apparently Intelligent) Creature that looks like it is changing its expression or moving when you talk to it.
Everyone will be encouraged to share what they’re working on during class, and document what they do with written notes, drawings, photos, and videos. A gallery of class work will be available to show off creations and request feedback on works in progress.
This class works best when students are on camera and use the microphone to ask questions or participate in class discussion. I will do my best to accommodate individual needs and preferences.
Projects in this course require the ability to cut, tape, and measure (or judge amounts). For the coding activities, you’ll need to connect the programmable board to your computer with a USB cable and move files from the download folder to the attached device.
- Students will be introduced to the idea of using simple materials to prototype working models.
- Students will practice engineering design skills like testing, trouble-shooting, iteration, and documentation as they build, improve, and enhance their models and share them with others.
- Students will learn the basics of electrical circuits and electronics.
- Students will learn to create basic computer programs.
- Students will learn to improvise, take risks, develop the confidence to explore new areas, and test out their own ideas and designs.
In addition, students will learn new electronics and computer science concepts, including how to add external input and output to the Circuit Playground Express, how to build more complex programs using loops, logic, and functions.
Supporting Your Learner
Adults are encouraged to stand by during class if they believe their students may need help with building, coding, or working with the computer. Written instructions will be provided where appropriate to make it easier to review concepts covered in class.
Required and Suggested Supplies
- computer with USB port and internet access
- one (1) Adafruit Circuit Playground Express microcontroller board with USB data cable and battery case
- six (6) alligator clip to male header jumper wires in different colors (such as https://www.adafruit.com/product/3448)
- one or two (1-2) 9g micro servo motors (such as https://www.adafruit.com/product/169)
- one or two (1-2) micro continuous rotation servo motors (such as https://www.adafruit.com/product/2442)
Optional Electronics and Tools
- nylon conductive tape with conductive glue (such as https://www.adafruit.com/product/3961)
- LED “fairy light” strands (such as https://www.adafruit.com/product/895) — or find in dollar stores
- wire strippers (such as https://www.adafruit.com/product/527) — highly recommended
Crafts and/or Recycled Materials
Use what you have! Ideas include:
recycled containers and materials, such as:
small corrugated cardboard mailing boxes
heavy and lightweight scrap pieces (cereal boxes, old postcards, index cards)
cardboard coasters (for wheels)
- building kits and parts, such as LEGO
- old clothing (t-shirts, headbands, hats, gloves)
adhesives, such as:
regular household tape, such as clear tape or masking tape (have a lot on hand for quick prototyping!)
peel-and-stick Velcro dots — great for microcontroller boards
adhesive dots — good for googly eyes and other decorations
removable mounting squares (used for hanging posters)
hot glue gun (to be used outside of class)
connectors, such as:
mini zip ties
wire, twist ties
paper or plastic straws
bamboo skewers, cocktail picks, and/or toothpicks
cutting tools, such as:
scissors (preferably small, sharp scissors like sewing or nail scissors)
sharp pencil (for poking holes)
decorative materials, such as
craft sticks in assorted sizes
large wooden or plastic beads
peel and stick craft foam
Requirements for Coding Activities:
We will be using free, online Microsoft MakeCode software. It works best using the Chrome browser.
To download the code to the programmable board, you will also need a laptop or desktop computer (not a tablet) that can be connected to the board with a standard USB data cable (see the supply list for details).
Many families find it useful to watch the class on a second device while working with MakeCode on their computer. However, it is possible to Zoom and code on the same computer at the same time!
Live sessions work best with a camera and microphone. Parents will need a Zoom account (free).
Kathy Ceceri, B.A.
Kathy Ceceri is an award-winning writer and educator, and the author of more than a dozen books of hands-on STEAM activities for kids and teens. Formerly the Homeschooling Expert at About.com (now ThoughtCo), she wrote the Hands-On Learning column for Home Education magazine and taught her own two children at home from kindergarten until college.
Kathy’s workshops and activities are designed with the non-expert in mind. They introduce basic concepts in science and technology, and give students the skills and information they need to troubleshoot their projects and build upon what they’ve learned. Additional background material and resources look at the diverse people behind the inventions and put them into context in the larger society.
We offered Kathy’s DIY Buzzing Game online workshop last month and it was great! The kids had such a good time. Really creative! Lara R. Cohen, Youth Services Librarian
The kids had such a good time. Really creative!Teacher: Kathy Ceceri
I just wanted to say thank you for teaching this class. My son enjoyed it so much and learned a lot. He is really into motors and circuits right now and this class was a great help to his robotics learning. Parent of student in Build BOTS class
My son enjoyed it so much and learned a lot.Teacher: Kathy Ceceri
My daughter is really enjoying your class. We’ll sign up for anything that you do, as you are an excellent teacher. Mom of Build BOTS Student